The Atta project was well-represented in the 2016 Summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Program held at La Selva Biological Station. Two students, Odemaris Carrasquillo (University of Puerto Rico) and Shaquetta Johnson (Jackson State University) worked with Atta co-PI Tom Harmon and his PhD student Angel S. Fernandez (University of California Merced). In consultation with Tom and Angel, the students brainstormed on research questions, developed a proposal and work plan, and then hit the forest for some exciting research. Together, Odemaris and Shaquetta worked to assess the carbon budget for several Atta nests, demonstrating outstanding teamwork. Odemaris (an engineering major) is focusing more on gas emissions (carbon dioxide) and Shaquetta (a biology major) on carbon inputs and Atta foraging behavior in terms of vegetation entering the nest.
The REU research has produced a ton of interesting data and some memorable times. For example, to study foraging behavior Shaquetta performed several exciting overnight sampling sessions in the rain forest (followed by many, many less exciting hours analyzing her foraging videos). For CO2 nest emissions, Odemaris has become an expert using our CO2bies (CO2 monitoring chambers), and has completed hundreds (literally!) of flux measurements on the nest soil and vents.
We are very proud of them and thank them for their tireless efforts working long days (and sometimes nights!) for 8 weeks under challenging conditions. We look forward to learning about their findings as they wrap up the REU experience in early August, and to seeing where their next steps take them.
Well done, Odemaris and Shaquetta! Thank you for joining the Atta Team and making a valuable contribution!